Microsoft AdCenter Leaves the Budgeting Stone Age

By Tad Miller | Oct 30, 2007
More Articles by Tad

MSN AdCenter made some upgrades on Monday, October 29 that I think kind of slipped under the radar. Reasons for this are likely 1) many advertisers don’t even bother with MSN and 2) They totally emphasized the least significant changes (editorial stuff) and buried the fact that they finally changed their budget functions.

MSN previously did not use daily campaign budgeting. You chose a monthly budget and you had two options 1) allow their ad serving technology to divide your budget over the whole month and 2) spend the entire budget until it’s completely exhausted. MSN supposedly gets 8% of search traffic, which is very small in comparison to Google and Yahoo. This lack of traffic combined with what I think is an overly restrictive ad serving technology is not a good combination.

If you opt to have MSN spread your budget spend over a months time and MSN’s technology thinks you aren’t budgeting enough they might not show your ad for the first week of the month. I think it’s terrible and account managers that I’ve spoken with at MSN have not exactly praised it in previous discussions…

In recent months I have opted to let MSN spend my campaign budgets until they are completely depleted. I know approximately how much I’m able to spend with MSN and make an educated guess. If I run out of budget, I can ad budget later. The drawback is that MSN may demand a certain amount at the end of the month to even activate your ads, whether you want to spend that much or not.

These two budget options are still available for use on MSN, but they are now also allowing the use of daily campaign budgets. You still must choose a monthly budget – which is the ultimate budget, but you can now limit how much you spend per day. It’s just another layer of flexibility that gives you more control over your spend.

I do all my PPC budgeting by the Campaign – regardless of what search engine they reside with. I budget based on conversion metrics and cost per conversion. This allows me to make adjustments by campaign at any time of month. With the advent of daily campaign budgets on MSN the guess work of how much MSN will spend per day is now more concrete. To me this is a big deal that will make my job much easier.

My concerns: Will it actually work? As soon as MSN made this change several of my campaigns that still had plenty of budget left were paused for having an insufficient budget. This was later fixed by technical support. MSN has the most unpredictable traffic of all the major search engines. Its budget estimating tools are pointless – you are almost better off guessing your spend and looking at historical data. Even with daily campaign budgets the flow of traffic will likely still be erratic.

So with all the problems why bother? Bottom line it’s not a lot of PPC traffic, but we have clients that actually get some of their best conversion rates from their MSN Campaigns. We see a lot of success from popular brand terms, and not as much from industry segment terms (perhaps to a greater degree than Yahoo and Google).

I’ll use the daily campaign budgeting for the first full month in November, and will keep everyone appraised on how it works.

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